Secondsight and the Synod

We are on the eve of the Synod on marriage and the family, 5-19 October. And I propose that we should consider what we expect, hope or fear from this Synod. We know that it has already broken new ground through wide consultation – which has included the laity. Amateur though the questions of the consultation were, it does seem to have reflected substantial gaps between the Magisterium and the body of the Church.

Among the questions which the synod will examine are

Marriage according to the Natural Law
The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization
Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations
On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages
The Openness of the Married Couple to Life
The Relationship Between the Family and the Person
Other Challenges and Proposals

Synods arising from Vatican II have in the past been very much under the control of the Vatican, particularly the Curia. Both the agenda and the final outcomes often appear to have been master-minded. It has even been suggested that they were presented as a pretence of collegiality, when in fact they have been ?o more than a confirmation of no change. However the advent of Pope Francis may well make things different this time.

Will we see the bishops in open robust exchanges, and – even more importantly – will it be they who decide the outcomes, in communion with the Pope, or the Curia? It will be a real test of collegiality, otherwise we might as well drop the idea. And will we receive a reliable account of the discussions? Or perhaps nothing more than the eventual publication of some kind of carefully drafted official document?

The signs so far indicate that there will be no substantive change in moral doctrine. But there may well be changes in pastoral practice. One of these may be a re-emphasis on the sovereignty of conscience, both its extents and its limits. It is perhaps about time for this Vatican II teaching on this to become a reality in pastoral practice and in general Catholic understanding.

An issue which Francis has highlighted is the pastoral permission for Catholics in certain second marriages to return to the sacraments. Against this may be the view that even a pastoral change here may endanger the concept of sacramental marriage.

The process of marriage annulment may possibly be revised and simplified. Will the outcome here be acceptable to all? Will we get closer to annulment as the Catholic workaround for divorce?

A change in the prohibition of artificial contraception seems unlikely. But will the Church find some way of handling or expressing this in order to bridge the gap the between the laity and the Magisterium? On this blog it has been suggested that bishops have on the whole not given full-hearted support to orthodoxy. Will they express their doubts, if they have any? Will we hear about these?

Will consideration of unions of people of the same sex (perhaps civil partnerships rather than marriage) be a simple confirmation of traditional teaching? Or will the Synod take into account the well-established sexual orientation of homosexuals – leading perhaps to a recognition that ‘natural behaviour’ is open to a wider definition, at least in practice, if not in theory. The habit of deducing sexual morality from physical structures has found less favour with moral theologians in recent years.

You may have other questions to ask. I am very much looking forward to your contributions. And I think we will take the opportunity at the right time to discuss what actually happened.

I have a special request here. Currently I am planning to pose questions about the Synod in my Catholic Herald column for 3 October. Your contributions to my post today will help me greatly in finalising what I write. I will value your help.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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136 Responses to Secondsight and the Synod

  1. milliganp says:

    Given the pastoral need for some form of change of discipline, instead of changing the theology of marriage could we not affirm the role of the Eucharist as necessary food for the spiritual journey.
    Simplifying annulment is going to look like a cop out, traddies will, rightly, hate it and those whose marrriages have failed will still not see it as a solution -people prefer to admit their marriage has failed rather than resorting to the seeming pretence of it never having existed.
    Any re-affirmation of traditional teaching that does not recognise the challenges of modern society will exclude the church from engagement with society for another generation.

    • John L says:

      Whoah there – that’s a bit hard. Annulment, simple or complex, isn’t a cop-out or a pretence. If conditions for a valid marriage exist, then failure to fulfil them means the marriage does not exist. If there are no such conditions then the discussion is a bit pointless, surely? I am not grinding any axe here, but am asking that the Church’s teaching be clear and unambiguous.

      • milliganp says:

        My point is not that annulment is invalid but the most people don’t understand the difference between nullity and divorce. If the church makes nullity “easier”, most will see it as divorce by the back door. Many of us could claim that we were immature or unsure or doubtful on the day of our wedding. I have several friends who have obtained annulments that seem “convenient” to me and several divorced friends who have, probably, better claims to annulment. It all seems too much like a church lottery to me.
        Frankly the pre-Vatican II, if you signed the register (without duress) the marriage is valid is a lot clearer than “I was immature”, or “I wasn’t certain” or “I got married because I was pregnant”.

      • John L says:

        Yes, fair comment. It is a pity that the difference is not spelt out, trumpeted even, more clearly. I think it possible that the ‘convenient’ cases you refer to might be examples of merciful pastoral practice, for want of a better expression. I suppose that somewhere a judgment must be made and a Church court, not public opinion is the place for it.

      • John L says:

        A postscript… We are constantly hearing about King Henry the Eighth’s request for a ‘divorce’ in popular ‘history’. Such case as he made to the Holy See was in fact for an annulment. Perhaps the distinction was even less clear in his time, but it strikes me as a typical misrepresentation which never seems to be challenged.

    • Singalong says:

      The only annulment process for which I have heard first hand details seemed to be immensely lengthy, complex and bureaucratic. I asked in my response to the questionnaire if it could be simplified, not the conditions but the process, and I very much hope that will be arranged.

      I think the sadness of many wedding ceremonies which do not develop into real sacramental marriages, and consequently can be annulled, could be avoided by thorough, sound preparation, with full, unequivocal explanations of the Church’s teaching. This, more than ever, now, needs to be presented as being very different from the belief and practices of most contemporaries of the couple. They must be advised to pray very sincerely so that they can use the grace of the sacrament to live according to their Catholic ideals.

  2. jimbeam says:

    Yes affirm the Eucharist; if one is cut off from the Eucharist (except I imagine temporarily if, for instance, the Church is waiting for an answer to a call for repentance) then surely one is cut off from the Church (excommunicated). I cant see there is any other way of looking at this — unless the Church wants to pervert (continue perverting) what she and the Eucharist truly are for the sake of protectiveness.
    Rather, what about indulgences issued for those undergoing annulment and remarriage? I get the impression indulgences have gone out of fashion. And yet I think I am right in saying that we are obliged to recognise their Apostolic character

  3. milliganp says:

    It is interesting that the Pope is due to preside at a nuptial mass for 20 couples getting married on Monday and that the couples inlclude some who are co-habiting, some who already have children as well as one couple where one of the parties has obtained an anulment.

  4. Brendan says:

    Thank you for posing the questions about the coming synod in plenty of time. You’re right in saying this interface between the church leadership and the faithful will be an historic event which will shape the catholicity of Christs Church on earth for the foreseeable future. Let me nail my colours to the mast straight away on the subject of marriage – which is fundamental to the health and practical living out of a life staying true to the Gospel.
    In the fascinating exchanges between the princes of the church, Cardinals Casper and Muller – which has exposed a seeming ‘ split ‘ in the anthropological nature of traditional marriage by way of natural law – vis a vis the Churches position on sacramental marriage in the requirements for recieving the Blessed Sacrament , I see this as a kind of spritual sorting ‘wheat from chaff .
    For me Church teaching is crystal clear in that a marriage blessed by God with the usual conditions can not be undone or done again during the period of the couples life and that reception before the altar of God to receive Him , as with all of us , in good faith is made with a clear conscience free from the barrier of sin.
    The questions I would like to have discussed at the special Synod is one of pastoral care to encourage those unable to participate fully in the life of the Church i.e. receiving the Body of Christ and better catechesis in the Scramental nature of Holy Matrimony and its relevance to Catholic family living , and better preparation for the married state.
    With the ongoing secularisation of society which many of us saw coming intuitively a long time ago – but were largely non-plussed in how to deal with it in real terms – it is vital that the Magisterium does not fudge this issue , and the the worlds Bishops present a clear compassion and steadfast message to the faithful .We are all in an era of spritual warfare that in the West which we sooner or later must wake up to by the grace of the Sprit of God . Pope Francis has set the pace for us to take up the challenge.

  5. Claret says:

    ‘On Unions of persons of the same sex.’ Without the questionnaire to hand I cannot recall any questions on this particular topic.
    Quentin added ‘abortion’ at one point on this topic which he published some months ago and had to concede that it was never mentioned in the questionnaire.
    How easy it seems to be to fail to mention the writ of Holy Scripture. Jesus made it clear in the gospels of Matthew and Mark that there can be no divorce.

    • Vincent says:

      I can’t remember if it was on the questionnaire either, but it appears to be one of the listed topics. I would want to distinguish here between the issues of whether or not we can sensibly refer to gay marriage (I think not) and the ‘intrinsic evil’ of a gay connection as in civil partnership. There is clearly something irregular here if we are guided by anatomy, But at the psychological level it comes naturally to gay people, and I am not inclined to condemn it,
      I may be influenced by one or two long term gay partnerships I count among my friends. They are in no way evil people, and one elderly couple devote their spare time to their joint work with important charities.

      • milliganp says:

        At the risk of getting off-topic could I suggest an analogy. Abstract art does not convey in any literal way the object of the artists creativity. If we had a “natural law” of art we would say that abstract art is contrary to nature as it lacks obvious form or structure. In music, similarly, there are those who might condemn Jazz, or Blues or House.
        Natural law utterly pre-dates psychology and thus seems not to have any category other than “disordered” for any product of the mind that goes against the physicalist roots of that law.

      • jimbeam says:

        I think art/music of any form is an abstraction of reality, so this is a confusing analogy to make.

      • milliganp says:

        Surely love and beauty are abstractions.

      • jimbeam says:

        Beauty is surely an abstraction. “God is love”, so love is not an abstraction.
        I recently read a sonnet by Shakespeare (no.147), it seems to be talking about the confusion between love and desire: the poet, in feverish madness and abandoned by reason, comes to the conclusion that “desire is death”, and “black as hell”.
        My own thoughts on this is that desire (inc. emotional love) is not in itself love, yet often accompanies love. On its own (and seeking itself), desire it is merely “chaff” and delusion; on the other hand, with love it is like a casing — like the growth of a seed where the chaff was a part of the seed in its growing process and then protects the seed (like bark) until harvest time.
        I think concerning discerning between sinful and creative (chaste and loving) sexual desire is, at best, always riding a fine line. I strongly sense (but I do not know with certainty, and I myself am unmarried) that there are manifestations of sexual procreation (transcending into the spiritual) that do not depend upon baby making — if this is true then there should be no problem with condoms as far as the Holy Spirit is concerned?

    • jimbeam says:

      A suggested blessing for Gay couples (I have already sent this as a letter to the Herald but they did not print it):

      “May you both as be blessed as believers in Christ as [brothers/sisters] to love and care for one another spiritually, including the personal and material concerns in respect of your co-habitation [, and in respect of your legal civil union, if you have one].
      Concerning any sexual activity outside of holy matrimony, you must understand that such is considered adultery, and is selfish, perverse and immoral according to the doctrine of the Church. Our bodies and lives are not our own but are temples for — and instruments of — the Holy Spirit. So much as you profess your right to indulge in sexual intimacy together, you equally profess yourself to be above the law of the Church, and thus exclude yourselves from the Church — to the extent this is so, we pray for your repentance [space for silent/open confession].
      On the other hand, so much as you both acknowledge the inherent sin of active homosexuality, and truly seek to please Christ before your own desires: May our Father forgive any transgressions, teach you both discipline, show you the way of chaste and true love, deliver you from temptation, and strengthen you together in knowing — and living within — safe boundaries with regards all physical intimacy that you do share.”

    • jimbeam says:

      Jesus made it clear “there can be no divorce”? Yes, he does indeed say to us “sin no more”. But the Church is well leavened with sin, unfortunately.
      He also pointed out the reason why Moses allowed for divorce: to not do so would be politically-spiritually unrealistic.

  6. jimbeam says:

    How can it be so black and white that intercourse with a condom is sin, whereas intercourse intentionally outside of the female cycle is ok? This is dubious clumsy manmade one-size-fits-all semi-nonsense.
    Is sex between old aged couples illegal (since they are not open to procreation)? I’ve never heard anything about this.

    • milliganp says:

      Based on the dialog in the film Good Morning, Vietnam, any reference to “one size fits all” in relation to condom use seems optimistic.

    • Ignatius says:

      No it isn’t illegal. The openness to procreation is something that covers the whole adult life, it is not that the couple are against procreation…just that they are past it!!

      • tim says:

        The biblical authority is Sarah. In British law there is a well-worn maxim
        “Equity is not to be presumed to be beyond the age of child-bearing”.

  7. Horace says:

    I am not sure that I properly understand any of the “questions which the synod will examine” as listed by Quentin – but here is a comment on one in particular:-
    The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages
    Does this mean what we used to call ‘Mixed marriages’?
    My father was an Anglo-Irish Protestant who frequently declared that he did not feel bound by the promise that he gave on marriage to have the children brought up in the Catholic Faith – because the promise was extracted ‘under duress’.
    Nevertheless he sent me to a Jesuit school and told me that it was because he respected the maxim, attributed to a Jesuit – “Give me the Child and I’ll Give you the Man”.

  8. Claret says:

    The whole issue of divorce and re-marriage within Catholic teaching is something of a quagmire. The issue before the synod would seem to be the matter of receiving communion for divorced Catholics who have re-married.
    Like many issues what is a forgiving & Christian thing to do takes no account of those who are divorced, often against their will, but have faithfully kept to Church teaching and have purposefully not re-married so as to be able to receive the sacraments; and is so doing have made great personal sacrifice. Such persons deserve better than to see the rules amended to suit others.

    It is a dangerous path to take and once a door is open only a small amount then the move to remove it altogether grows ever stronger.

    My own opinion on this Synod is that those who are expecting or hoping for great change will be disappointed.

    • milliganp says:

      I appreciate you viewpoint but, if we take Christ’s teaching as our basis for faith, He has several teachings that require the virtuous to respect the faith of those who are less capable. Forgiving a sinner does not make sin acceptable but it reminds all of us that we should not judge lest we be judged.

    • milliganp says:

      There are a number of Catholic young people who follow the church’s teaching on sex outside marriage and abstain from sex until married. Nevertheless, we don’t overtly prohibit communion to those who are sexually active; in fact we appear to penalise people for being committed. Two wrongs don’t make a right so this argument is ultimately specious, however the church is in the world and the world does not understand our differentiation.

    • tim says:

      For me, this is covered by the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Those who ‘have borne the heat and burden of the day’ are not to feel jealous of those who have avoided it (this is a hard saying, of course).

  9. Ignatius says:

    “Like many issues what is a forgiving & Christian thing to do takes no account of those who are divorced, often against their will, but have faithfully kept to Church teaching and have purposefully not re-married so as to be able to receive the sacraments; and is so doing have made great personal sacrifice. Such persons deserve better than to see the rules amended to suit others…”

    So you mean that Eucharist should be only the province of the righteous then?
    Those who have not remarried have not done so, good for them but you are assuming that these people need in some way to be rewarded by seeing the weaker punished? Hmmm never met any of these people myself but I have met several who found the stricture against receiving Eucharist to be so harsh that they could not bear it, especially those who were faced with being barred from the sacrament simply because of a partners betrayal and then the subsequent finding of happiness found them effectively excommunicated. For those who are able to tread your thorny path good, mercy and the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist for the rest of us.

    • jimbeam says:

      “So you mean that Eucharist should be only the province of the righteous then?”
      (Jude talks about “blemishes at your love feasts”/ “like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you”)
      Yes it should. Reality of circumstance dictates otherwise; such is God’s will that we must adapt to the circumstances (ie. Jesus’ parable of the field of wheat with tares planted by the enemy; not to be weeded out for fear of uprooting any wheat at the same time).
      In 1 Corinthians 5, St Paul tells us “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”, giving us the command to “expel the evil person from amongst you”. The Church is supposed to be the “unleavened bread of Christ”. Sin within the Church breeds and festers like leaven, infecting the Church on every level, and every member (thus monasticism and saints rarified to solitary persons like Ignatius of Loyola).
      The Book of Revelation talks about the woman (the Church) being take into a safe place in the desert. I don’t think she would choose to be in the desert unless needs be so.
      The baptised are born again, having “died to sin” by the grace of Christ. Is this the grace of Christ: confession followed by Eucharist followed by sin, etc… ? Mercy it may well be, however, confession without repentance is next to useless. Apparently the baptised are forever “forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins” (2 Peter 1).

    • jimbeam says:

      I read an article in the Catholic Herald this morning about Black Masses. The author talks about the devils greatest damage in this respect: not so much to inspire people to enact these satanic caricatures; rather to influence people to go to the sacrament unworthily, or not at all.

      • milliganp says:

        I suspect that neo-pelagianism has many forms. In every church there will be some person approaching the sacrament knowing themselves to be in a state of sin, there will also be those happy to decide that someone else should not go to communion while they do.
        As to Black Masses, I suspect there are more articles on the subject in the Catholic Herald than there are black masses; don’t forget that Satan’s greatest weapon is to convince us he doesn’t exist – I don’t think, in our world, he needs to draw attention to himself.

  10. Brendan says:

    Something I feel is worth the Church exploring at the first Special Synod in October.
    In 2005, Pope Benedict ( as was then ) stated whether a marriage could be declared invalid because of a lack of ‘ faith ‘ at the time of marriage. In his own words…….” the Sacrament could be found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare say. I have thought so …… ”
    He understandably goes on to say that more study needs to be done on this specific issue ,that could help couples finding themselves in difficulties later on in their marriage. Certainly in light of ‘ intention ‘ ,’ expectation ‘ and perception of each person being joined in Holy Matrimony these factors must be regarded as legitimate areas of theological debate ON such a sensitive issue.

  11. milliganp says:

    Just for information Cardinal Walter Kasper has written about the application of mercy in response to marriage breakdown. A summary is at the National Catholic Reporter website with the original article on the America magazine website.
    NCR Article:
    Original Article:

  12. Ignatius says:

    Yes I have recently studied through Cardinal Kaspers excellent discussion on the topic.

  13. Ignatius says:

    “I thought that my suggestion might actually be from the Holy Spirit, indicating how to kill two x two birds with one stone. I didn’t realise there was anything in it that was worthy of ignoring…”
    It didn’t occur to you that your wording, in a public place, could be construed as close to illegal?

    • jimbeam says:

      No, it did not occur to me the wording would be illegal, and I’m not entirely sure if I know what you mean?
      What about the intended meaning? Do you have a different wording?

      • tim says:

        If the law is to prevent saying what one believes to be true in a reasonably civil manner, then ‘the law is a ass’ – and will not compel respect.

  14. Ignatius says:

    “The questions I would like to have discussed at the special Synod is one of pastoral care to encourage those unable to participate fully in the life of the Church i.e. receiving the Body of Christ…”

    Forgive me for asking but how would you see this ‘pastoral care’ emerging in the life of the parish, and who would be responsible for it? How would you go about this encouragement?

    I know Quentin hasn’t asked for answers, only questions but it does seem to me that there is a kind of tension involved in posing questions which do not actually have answers. If you try and put yourself in the place of a re married couple refused eucharist and feeling isolated and completely exposed in the church- perhaps chiefly concerned for their partners feelings; how, in practical terms would you propose to encourage this couple?

    • milliganp says:

      Perhaps one of the options the Synod might consider is to formalise the offering of a blessing for those who approach communion but who do not feel able to receive, for whatever reason. This might alleviate the sense of explicit exclusion for specific classes of sin.
      Pastoral care might also be to specifically assist couples with the process of annulment and to ensure that they feel included in other aspects of parish life (if parish life solely consists of Sunday Mass, then there is another problem).

    • Brendan says:

      I’m glad you can see the merit in my response to this blog, principally because I haven’t the time to spend discussing too much or as much as I’d like. While ‘ worthiness’ to receive Holy Communion is a ‘hot’ topic at the moment, all these sensitive issues revolve around future pastoral care of our parishes for the whole family unit – whatever that may be . I, like you I think would like the synod with its very broad make-up to concentrate mainly on a ‘blue print ‘for total pastoral care in our parishes to include all the wide ranging God – given gifts at their disposal – coordinated of course by the Pastor. Subsidiarity, taken to its obvious end encompassing the ‘ royal priesthood ‘ of the laity and religious.
      I discussed the same with a visiting Chilean priest to our parish, Father Pedro Rodriguez. Studying in Rome and invited by our parish priest to reside in our parish ( among’st other priests ) for a month to improve his English, it dawned on me how very alike in attitude he was to Pope Francis – not surprising being south American. Certainly, I was left with the obvious impression that his counterpart to our Western structure of a parish appeared to be more inclusive in a ‘ loose ‘ kind of way – not so committee led in a stiflingly bureaucratic sense – but enthused into action more by the ineffable presence of the Spirit of God.
      With wise and Christian maturity I feel this can be duplicated in Western form into every parish. Notwithstanding the fact that the New Movements appear to have developed their own particular charisms albeit outside of main parish life.

  15. jimbeam says:

    Re. Singalong on annulment, and Brendan on “lack of faith at time of marriage” and “lacking a fundamental dimension”:

    This morning at mass a child was baptised and it occurred to that it had the feeling of a wedding (indeed, it is THE wedding, is it not?). As well as a ‘wedding’ guest applying makeup in a hand mirror as we were celebrating the Eucharist, I noted that for the actual baptism, although the parents were asked if they believed in the trinity etc, and informed of their responsibility to bring up the child in faith, there was no clear communication of what baptism actually is. People talk much about marriage and about the Eucharist, but not much about baptism; yet this is the fundamental root sacrament (is it not?). (A personal note: I have been struggling with my own identity as a Christian, and was Christened in dubious circumstances.)

    Does this describes the popular understanding of baptism?:
    “infant baptism is the acceptance of the child into the physical, earthly family of the church. As such it conveys no spiritual inner blessing to the child, other than the prayers and promises of the godparents, until such time as that child has reached the maturity of adolescence or adulthood and wishes to Confirm for himself the vows made on his/her behalf at baptism in the service of Confirmation.”

    And this the common reality?:
    “Many parents who are only nominal Christians, or even agnostics/atheists, think it only right to consider the views of other members of their families and arrange for baptism, without believing it will do the child either good or harm.”

    Not meaning to hijack this topic; yet if you will, what are your thoughts on this?

    • John Nolan says:


      Ceremonies of Baptism part 1 – The Questioning.
      ‘N., what do you ask of God’s Church?’ ‘Faith.’
      ‘What does faith bring you to?’ ‘Eternal life.’

      Oops, sorry, that’s the old form. We now have:
      ‘N., what do you ask of God’s Church?’ ‘Baptism.’

      That’s it. No mention of faith or eternal life (I believe they can be added on as ‘optional extras’). No exorcisms (the so-called prayer of exorcism is not an exorcism at all) . But, hey-ho, we can have ‘baptismal songs’ and Scripture readings. I dare say there are those who find this a great improvement. I wonder if Deacon Ignatius, an extraordinary minister of Baptism, has any thoughts on this?

      • milliganp says:

        John, we can all misrepresent by selective quotation, I expect better in this blog.

        The following dialog proceeds immediately after the basic question:-
        “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbour. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
        “N., the Christian community welcomes you with great joy. in its name I claim you for Christ our Saviour by the sign of his cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents (and godparents) to do the same.”

        These words very clearly state what the Christian community believes and expects. The baptismal promises, later in the service, specifically reject Satan. We no longer use the term exorcism because otherwise we would be implying that 3 month old babies are possessed by the devil!

        The original anointing of adults with the oil of Baptism as part of the preparation for the sacrament reflected that they had indeed sinned and that baptism does represent, for them, a change of ways.

      • milliganp says:

        By the way, a Deacon is an ordinary minister of baptism.

    • milliganp says:

      Jimbeam, this is a straw dog argument. You posit a possible misunderstanding of the nature of baptism and ask for comment. I am sure there are many misunderstandings of baptism but I’m not sure what we gain by speculating on them.
      A valid question for the synod might be:-
      “Does the local church clearly communicate the meaning and purpose of the sacrament of baptism and the nature of the church into which the baptised are incorporated”.

      Yes, it’s a multi-part question but if we tick all the implicit boxes we might hope that people understand the sacrament enough to celebrate it meaningfully.

      As to your personal concern about being “christened in dubious circumstances”, the validity of the sacrament rests entirely with the person performing the baptism following the form of puring water with the words “I baptise thee (you) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. The sacrament does not depend on the spiritual disposition or intent of the parents or godparents.

      • John Nolan says:

        Paul Milligan
        The deacon is an extraordinary minister of Baptism in the classic Rite which still obtains. A simple comparison between the two forms is salutary. The older rite is far richer and more explicit. Infant baptism was practised in the early Church and no-one suggested that the exorcism implied that the infant was demonically possessed. This type of literalism is a 20th century phenomenon which has had a pervasive and (to my mind) baleful effect on the reform of the Roman Ritual after Vatican II. So we end up with a watered-down and ambiguous product; a ‘Book of Blessings’ which doesn’t actually bless anything, a rite for the dying which is aimed at the grieving relatives who must not be upset, a rite of exorcism which exorcists won’t use because it is less effective than the one it replaced – the list goes on and on.

        There are ‘baptized’ Christians whose baptism is invalid because their denomination used the trendy formula ‘in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier’.

      • milliganp says:

        From the Una Voce website, 2 phrases from the EF form of Baptism, both said over a newborn baby:-
        Depart from him unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Consoler.
        Free him from the snares of Satan which until now have held him.

        The modern rite form states:-
        Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the
        power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring
        him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him free from original sin, make him a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him.

        This doesn’t seem watered down but is, I would suggest, a clearer statement of what is happening.

    • Singalong says:

      I wonder where you found the statements you have quoted? Sadly, they probably do reflect some people’s wrong and incomplete understanding of Baptism, which is rather hard to understand, as the sacrament has been delayed for 6 months since Vatican 11 in order for parents, family and godparents to take part in a course of preparation. If this is not done well it is a golden opportunity missed.

    • jimbeam says:

      Singalong, I hope to leave that to your imagination.


      The formula you give here for baptism seems okish, however my impression of the general reality and of popular belief is much more in line with John Nolan’s depiction.

      Are you referring to Francis’ “promethean neopelagianism” (evangelii gaudium, 94)? What extremely obscuring words for something that should be understood! (I forget now because the words themselves are like a spam wave.)

      No baptism is valid without belief (“whoever believes and is baptised will be saved” Mark 16:16). It took a long time (inc. hell) for me to even begin to believe my baptism was valid. And of course to the other extreme it is very easy to say/think that one believes if one is not filled with godly sorrow (with unworldly joy), and/or not being disciplined by God/ wrestling with faith.

      I hope that if I was a priest (I believe all believers are priests? I mean it here in the authoritative sense) I would not baptise a child unless I knew the parents well enough to gage the wholehearted sincerity — and appropriateness — of their intention. I doubt that I would baptise a child on the wildcard premise that if they are not baptised then they will go to hell (this is in God’s hands; who am I serving to act recklessly in this way?). If the parents desired baptism for their child and yet showed themselves to be semi or non committed in their faith, this would seem to be a perfect opportunity to require of them self examination and wholehearted commitment before proceeding.

      • milliganp says:

        One of the great advantages of a dogmatic faith founded by Christ is that we can believe certain matters with surety. The words I gave for baptism are not “okish”, they represent the form guaranteed by the church to effect the sacramental mark. We can all have difficulties but, as Newman says – 1000 difficulties do not make a doubt. Struggling with one’s faith does not make the truths of faith vary, only our capacity to accept them.

  16. Claret says:

    It is not me that is seeking to punish anyone as Ignatius, and others, (above) state. I am simply stating Church teaching, which is hard in many respects, but is the Church deciding what is mortal sin, and re-marriage after divorce is tantamount to adultery.
    I have no personal opinion on whether the Church is right on this issue or not but it does take its teachings from scripture, otherwise what is the point of scripture if we are simply to ignore it or just ‘cherry pick’ as we go along?
    I know of great personal sacrifice by some Catholics who are divorced but do not re-marry so as not to place themselves in the way of this particular sin.
    Everyone who presents themselves for communion is a sinner but the Church defines the seriousness of a particular sin. A murderer is denied the sacrament but could still present themselves for it, and would probably not be challenged as to their worthiness.
    Not only can divorced Catholics who re-marry not receive communion but neither can they receive the sacrament of confession!

    • jimbeam says:

      So there is an expectation of repentance. Cannot confess? Can they not confess that they do not know/understand the nature of their sin? Or that they do (sort of) know, but don’t know what (or how) to do about it?
      “There is no law against love”, St Paul tells us: so with faith in love we should know in our own hearts what our sin is and how it offends God, and what He wants us to do/ not do about it, not just darkly follow authority with blind faith (yes obey authority — when a matter of conscience before God). I speak regarding the individual and the community as bearing with the individual, and also the church as a person (collective sinner).

    • Ignatius says:

      Claret, Not taking issue with you personally of course, merely looking at Cardinal Kaspers view in seeing eucharist as a lifeboat for sinners and not a prize for ‘righteousness’.

  17. Ignatius says:

    er…I’m not a deacon yet kiddies …might be headed that way sometime soon but we have to wait and see, thanks for the vote of confidence though!!!
    Well done for persevering with this unruly crew you have joined!
    “..Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word….” Catechism of the catholic church
    Can I recommend you google ‘catechism of the catholic church’ scroll down to the description of baptism and spend awhile thinking about what it says there. A good cure for confusion and doubt sometimes is just to study and sit quietly with what the church understands as revealed truth and therefore takes as its own. The catechism is good because it has references to itself and so you can build up a broad picture from any given issue and find the overall context. Good to find out what the Catholic Church says about itself also so you don’t just get to much caught up in the argy bargy of others or trapped inside your own individual thinking. Have you got a catechism by the way?

  18. Ignatius says:


    By way of a postscript.
    When we went off to work in China as evangelical Christians our daughter was born in a missions hospital. When my wife came back for a few weeks to visit here catholic parents those parents, who are practicing catholics, baptised our daughter secretly at home without telling us. Now several years later and as a catholic myself I learn that the baptism they performed, as lay people, was and is valid in the eyes of the church.

    • milliganp says:

      Although well intentioned and valid, it is not permitted to baptise a child against the wishes or, worse, without the knowledge of their parents.
      Also, although valid a baptism has to be registered with the church to allow access to later sacraments (Holy Communion, Confirmation, Orders and Marriage).

  19. Claret says:

    ,In response to Jimbeam: My use of the word ‘confess’ was used as to describe what was in my day the Sacrament of Confession. Now called Sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament is denied by the Church in the same way as the Eucharist is denied. (Viz. to the divorced and re-married.) To repeat, I express no personal opinion on the rights and wrongs of this ‘policy.’

    Unlike Ignatius above I am unfamiliar with Cardinal Kasper’s expressions on this matter but any change in Church teaching would need to include an ‘overhaul’ of its teachings on mortal sin, on the permanency of marriage ( a denial of Christ’s teaching,) and on the whole issue of the Eucharist.
    I don’t see the Synod having any such desire or authority.

    • milliganp says:

      Claret. Since the Holy Father has set no limits on what the synod might discuss and several of its members have already indicated a desire for change in discipline it is at least probable that these issues will be aired and discussed. The teachings on mortal sin already allows for lack of evil intent or failure of knowledge or understanding. The permanency of a valid marriage has already been undermined by the widespread (ab)use of the annulment process.
      Personally I’d rather see an easing of the bar on reception of the Eucharist to any further damage to marriage via greater use of nullity. It seems more logical to say that someone has failed but has been forgiven than to say the marriage never existed.

  20. John Nolan says:

    Statistics on annulment from the USA, which has 6% of the world’s Catholics yet accounts for around 66% of annulments. The number of marriages annulled in the years cited:-

    1968 338
    1974 28,918
    1991 63,933
    2004 46,330
    2007 35,009

    Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI described this as a scandal. The reason for the falling-off of numbers this century has nothing to do with this; fewer petitions are filed because fewer divorced Catholics are interested in re-marrying in church. All the same, firms of specialist lawyers tout for custom on the Internet, typically charging $185 an hour.

    It is particularly hard on respondents who married in good faith, had children and are now told by the Catholic Church that they were never married in the first place. They can appeal to the Roman Rota which has a good record of overturning diocesan tribunals, but this is time-consuming and expensive. Sadly, not a few end up leaving the Church.

    Regarding the forthcoming Synod, there is a lengthy and fascinating interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols who attended the 1980 Synod on the family as bag-carrier to Cardinal Hume and gives a rare insight into what goes on at these gatherings. It can be accessed on the CBCEW website. The same site gives the full text of the working document (Insrumentum Laboris) for next month’s Synod which reflects the responses of Bishops’ Conferences to the famous (or infamous) questionnaire. It’s a longish read, but worthwhile, particularly for those who are still hoping for something dramatic to emerge. They will not be encouraged.

  21. Vincent says:

    Here are two cases to compare.

    After having completed his family, John decided to have the ‘snip’. There is now no possibility of further children.

    Jack was deserted by his adulterous but valid wife. He is now remarried outside the Church, and they have children.

    Both have committed grave sin, but John can sincerely repent, return to the sacraments and carry on.

    Jack would love to return to the sacraments but he cannot do so without ending his second marriage or denying the sexual rights of his second wife.

    • John Nolan says:

      Thanks, Vincent. Another case: A previously unmarried Catholic falls in love with a woman who was married according to the rites of the Church of England and has grown-up children. Her husband divorced her to marry someone else, but as far as she is concerned the vows she made were for life and she has no intention of making them again. As a non-Catholic she doesn’t accept the RC Church’s position on annulment anyway and would never submit herself to the procedure (annulments in the Anglican Church are rare).

      However, both want a relationship. What is the Catholic party to do? Ideally he would have wanted a Catholic marriage but this is clearly impossible. Does he live with this woman in an irregular relationship (all that is available) and square it with his conscience? Or walk away and deny both of them the chance of happiness? Hard cases indeed make bad law.

      • jimbeam says:

        Either no relationship or an irregular relationship with a sincere intention of perpetual chastity.

      • milliganp says:

        John, your final point makes me wonder. Because some people are poor, should we decriminalise petty thieving?

      • jimbeam says:

        Miliganp, I think that would crazy, however we would presumably hope to be lenient towards a poor person stealing, especially when we consider the vast magnitude of stealing/corruption by the rich which is unnoticed/untouchable by the law.

      • Horace says:

        This is a really fascinating comment.

        To start with ‘Jack’ – this is clearly what all the fuss is about (the divorced and remarried). I can see no possible way that he can get out of the dilemma that he is in without seriously hurting his new ‘wife’ and children.
        ‘John’s’ position is not quite as simple as it sounds. At least some of the operations referred to here as a ’snip’ (vasectomy) are, in fact reversible and the question arises – if ‘John’ truly repents should he have the operation reversed?

  22. Ignatius says:

    It gradually dawns on me of course that some of this difficulty is the simple cost of the Real Presence and the implied doctrinal out working of this understanding.

  23. Claret says:

    In our Diocese the Bishop has virtually ruled out Eucharistic services in all but the most extreme circumstances. Seems a bit ironic that on one hand the Church is seeking to extend communion to those it would regard as being in adulterous marriages but denying it to the faithful.
    The more you read about this Synod the more I wonder has to its validity and if the questionnaire is any yardstick then the whole thing will be disastrous at worse and a non-even at best.

    • John Nolan says:

      Claret, the only ‘Eucharistic service’ is the Holy Mass. I assume you mean a service of prayers and readings conducted by a lay person in which Holy Communion is distributed from pre-consecrated Hosts. I have never attended one and would see no reason for doing so. Your bishop is correct. The liturgical thrust since Vatican II is against distributing Communion outside Mass; indeed it recommends that the faithful receive the elements that are consecrated at the Mass they are attending.

      Although daily Mass is a laudable practice, there is no need to receive Communion daily. I suspect that the proliferation of this type of service is a job-creation scheme for the vast army of (mostly female) EMHC, whom you probably still call, erroneously, ‘Eucharistic Ministers’.

      • milliganp says:

        John, I can understand a degree of cynicism but the church has encouraged daily communion at Mass, so it is hardly surprising that communities want to have access to Holy Communion with a shortage of priests. As a supporter of the Extraordinary Form you should realise that daily communion is a pre Vatican II expectation, Vatican II tried to re-emphasise the uniqueness of the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, which is the norm outside Europe. It’s not about job creation but an erroneous understanding of the benefit of frequent reception.

      • milliganp says:

        On a further point, do you regard the Good Friday “Mass of the pre-sanctified” as a non-Eucharistic service?

    • Horace says:

      John Nolan: What about giving communion when visiting the sick at home or in hospital?

      • John Nolan says:

        Taking Communion to the sick is a separate issue. There is, of course, no Mass on Good Friday; the so-called ‘Mass of the pre-sanctified’ was the priest’s Communion in the pre-1955 Rite. When Communion was then extended to the faithful, the term was no longer used, and since I have never heard the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion referred to as a ‘Eucharistic Service’, the term ‘non-Eucharistic Service’ would not apply in any case.

        If there is no priest available to offer Mass on a weekday, then there is nothing to prevent the faithful gathering to celebrate Morning Prayer, which is part of the Office and therefore liturgical.

  24. Claret says:

    Should have read ‘non-event.’

  25. milliganp says:

    My wife is one of 8 children, all but one of whom have married. My mother in law attended only four of the seven weddings because, as a good Catholic, she would not attend a wedding that did not take place in church. No more than two of her children remember her with affection and only three have any faith in the Catholic Church (four hate Catholicism, one is neutral). Did my mother-in-law’s certainty of faith help spread the Gospel? The church need to think things through, there is a difference between having a loving faith and being a rigorist. So many of those who speak with certainty do not radiate the love of God.

    • Singalong says:

      This was a very big deal, especially in my parents’ generation, and balancing mercy with keeping the rules of Christ’s Church is always a dilemma. We have found the difficulty as parents, to be that when we try to use our influence, and encourage the “right” choice before the die is cast, we have nailed our colours to the mast, and thereafter, can accept the “wrong” choice, but are obviously seen to disapprove What remains is to say, all along, that we are not making any judgement ourselves, that only God knows the whole story, only He knows what else has influenced you, and what has been the effect of all your life experiences on the decision you have made, and a great also to accept any share of blame that God can see may be due to our own faults and failings as parents. There can be a great difference between the objective rules and the subjective application of those rules to individual circumstances. There are still problems of course, too full acceptance can imply that it is not too important, and there is also the question of example given to others, especially younger members of the family.

  26. jimbeam says:

    First to thank God for this conversation, praying that the Holy Spirit guide and use it with power for his peace.

    Ignatious, I wonder why your wife’s parents baptised your child?

    Claret: yes I thought you were talking about the sacrament of confession (“This sacrament is denied by the Church in the same way as the Eucharist is denied”), and I was suggesting that there might be room for the sacrament of confession whatever ones circumstances? I read from Wikipedia about penance, in the orthodox Church apparently a more “holistic” approach is adopted:
    Unlike the other ‘brands’ of Christianity, I have had little engagement with the Orthodox church (except for reading Dostoyevsky’s epic Lord of the Rings, aka Brothers Karamazov); she seems to be rather discreet/introverted/secluded compared to the others, and I think Churches near me are in Greek language, so I haven’t been drawn to commune.

  27. Ignatius says:

    “..Ignatious, I wonder why your wife’s parents baptised your child?..”

    They were catholic and we were not, though my wife was lapsed catholic. We were in the Evangelical church then.

  28. jimbeam says:

    Ignatius, my grandfather baptised me, though in most ways very different circumstances to what you describe.

    To return to the fundamentals of this discussion: marriage and family, and my main conviction about this.
    Jesus said “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matt 23:26)
    So, I would suggest an analogy here with this topic: the outside of the dish is the concerns and discussion as planned by the synod. The inside is, as I have already suggested, the marriage of baptism. From there, it is also the family, which is brothers and sisters in Christ, and Mary our mother (ie. the Church); these including family structure and authority (earthly and heavenly). And of course over all of this, our Father with Christ at his side.

    The RCC seems to teach that baptism is a marriage to/into the Church; whilst I do not dispute this, yet foremost surely it is a marriage with/into Jesus. This is fundamental, to have intimate one-to-one union with Christ: living in and through us, him who was perfected for each of our sakes on the cross.
    Thanks Ignatius for your suggestion about checking the full Catechism on baptism (yes I have the compendium already). Here I refer to the bible directly, which tells us, much mysteriously (mostly from memory; paraphrased):
    Through the waters of baptism, like Noah through the waters of the flood, we come to God with the response of — and appeal for — a clean conscience. (Peter)
    Don’t you know that all who have been baptised have been baptised into Christ’s death? If we die with him, we rise with him, and live with him. If we hold firm, we will reign with him, in his full likeness. If we disown him he will disown us; yet he cannot disown himself. (Paul)
    Water and blood, with the spirit, give testimony to the divinity of Christ. We are born of water and spirit/fire, that we might enter God’s Kingdom. (John)
    Jesus was baptised by John for our sakes, and it was then that the holy spirit rested on/in him.
    I noted in the compendium that as well as the sacrament of baptism, baptism of fire and baptism of desire are mentioned as sufficient (ie. that we might have union and die with Christ).

    • jimbeam says:

      I suggest that in one sense at least, the Eucharist is comparable to lying down together for intercourse on the marriage bed. (Certainly in this instance we don’t want to playing games with condoms and out of cycle sex)

    • milliganp says:

      Jimbeam, the analogy (and I think it’s much more) of marriage as the relationship between Christ and the Church and the further analogy between marriage and the inner life of the Trinity gives us much to contemplate. Hosea teaches us that God still loves an adulterous bride; it is a very deep mystery. Like most people there are times where I contemplate it with a fallen nature and moments when it near blows my mind. As someone with a large family I believe we also participate in this mystery in our lives as parents, children, brothers and sisters. In this deeper context, any abuse of marriage seems deeply flawed and questions what tolerance (as opposed to forgiveness) we should allow.

  29. Ignatius says:


    “In this deeper context, any abuse of marriage seems deeply flawed and questions what tolerance (as opposed to forgiveness) we should allow.”

    I don’t think that line of thinking adds up. Yes of course we draw the analogy of sexual life to Eucharist – basically because within the correct context of complete union there is an overlap of imagery. Normally one has to burrow deep into some tome on Christian mysticism to find this relationship discussed and we have such a strong prohibition about sexual imagery linked to religion or sacrifice that probably the analogy is best left as a private one. However it is a mistake to relate some deep personal instinct of the meaning of the sacred in marriage to a judicial approach. Jesus was tortured to death by sinners but this does not stop the forgiveness of sins.

  30. Ignatius says:

    “The RCC seems to teach that baptism is a marriage to/into the Church; whilst I do not dispute this, yet foremost surely it is a marriage with/into Jesus.

    As I understand it baptism is into Christ who is present in his Church.

  31. jimbeam says:

    “As I understand it baptism is into Christ who is present in his Church.”
    Yes, however:

    “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4)

    So the Church is not yet perfect (and yet in parts and persons more perfect than others?). Is our capacity for — or acceptance of — complete union with Christ dictated/mediated by the completeness of the Church and our belief in her (and how do we delineate her?); or by our belief in Christ Jesus? I think thats what I’m trying to get at.

  32. Ignatius says:

    To put it bluntly, we don’t delineate her…that’s rather like me trying to figure out if all of me is sanctified by eucharist or does some not get past my liver! So are my fingernails as sacred as my digestive organs 10 minutes after eucharist etc etc etc…I’d give up with that one if I were you.

  33. jimbeam says:

    Milliganp, thanks for the reference to Hosea, I have been re-reading some this morning. All the OT prophets who prophesied prior to the exile give much for us to chew on now. And I also think the story of the split of Israel into Judah and Israel (and the circumstances around this), which happened roughly 500 years before the exile, may have more relevance to us than is recognised?

    On the subject of adultery again: I opened my bible last night at St Paul discussion of lawfulness and union (1 Corinthians 6 12-20). “Food is made for the belly and the belly for food”. This keeps things simple, as in many ways they should be; yet as St Paul here suggests, this does not mean that we are immune to taking/treating food as a prostitute. So there is a selectivism as to what forms of adultery are easily delineated by law (ie. in relation to Marriage), and such become the scape goat.

    Ignatius, I’m not trying to be anal, my point about delineating the Church is partly this: are you a Christian first and then a Roman Catholic; or are you a Roman Catholic and a Christian (taken as being same thing)?

    • milliganp says:

      On the matter of the Catholic Church and those baptised validly in other Christian denominations, at one level you could do a Venn diagram and Catholics become a sub-group of Christianity. If we preach that the Catholic Church is the Spiritual Body of Christ then all the baptised are part of the one Church, thus the Venn diagram becomes the Catholic Church with other Chrisitians as part of the church but not in full communion.
      Logic says we can’t have it both ways!

      • jimbeam says:

        What does logic have to say about the Son of Man who was betrayed/forsaken and murdered, and also in the same breath, layed down his life of his own free will? I suggest that God is not bound by logic, and as the psalmist says: his thoughts are not our thoughts.

  34. jimbeam says:

    For any who don’t know and want an overview of the split of the kingdom, and to clarify to my own mind (sorry if I give any mistakes/misrepresentations):
    David commits murder and adultery. He is forgiven; none the less God tells him he has made a “great occasion for Israel to sin”. David marries the woman he has committed adultery with and their son Solomon becomes the next king of Israel.
    Solomon puts his people under heavy burden in the effort to make the temple and kingdom glorious. This creates bitterness and resentment. Solomon marries hundreds of woman, and in his old age allows some of his wives to build idolatrous temples/ Asherah poles; so God swears to split the kingdom, although maintaing Jerusalem for Davids sake.
    After Solomon’s death his son and heir Rehoboam refuses to listen to elders who suggest lifting the peoples burden, instead taking council from peers who suggest increasing the burden. Thus 10 of the tribes revolt against Jerusalem, and Jeroboam (who had been involved in supervising heavy building work and had opposed Solomon’s burden) is told by a prophet that God will make him a King over Israel (the 10 tribes who revolted), and that he must follow all God’s commandments. He becomes King, and — I think due to fear of loosing power, I am struggling to remember — he makes two golden calves and tells the people these are the God’s which led them out of Egypt.
    Then there are hundreds of years of problems in Israel and Judah (a few godly kings in Judah and lots of bad ones; next to nothing good in Israel), leading up to the Babelonian exile.

    • milliganp says:

      I presume you are suggesting this is in some way prophetic of the split in, and history of, Christianity – or at least that there are parallels. I don’t feel competent to attempt a modern exegesis but it does bear some consideration.

      • jimbeam says:

        Yes, parallels.
        Consider the content of Luther’s 95 thesis, taking into account that he was a Catholic when writing this, and his spiritually disturbed state of mind, and also the fact that this document was put forward for opening up discussion, however what apparently actually happened was that it was taken wholesale (without amendments) and printed and distributed. And go figure no.71: “Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.”

      • jimbeam says:

        This is the translation of the 95 thesis I was reading:

  35. overload says:

    Experimenting with an alteration of Vincent’s: (any correct corrections appreciated)

    Vlad is a new convert to Christianity. He is already married according to tribal custom: both he and his brother are married to the same woman. His wife has Children, and she is sympathetic to his new faith, however his brother is not sympathetic. What is the nature of his situation?

    After having completed his family, Peter decided to have the ‘snip’. There is now no possibility of further children.

    Martin was deserted by his adulterous but valid wife. He desired to remarry in the Church, and succeeded in doing this with some loopholing. With his new wife they have children who are enthusiastically involved in the Church. Both his wife and children do not understand the circumstances and assume that they are entirely legitimate. Martin initially acted self righteously, but knows that he has done wrong and discreetly abstains from the sacraments. The Church knows what he has done, but is anxious not to interfere and harm his wife and children. There is a stalemate.

    Justin was already married, but was forcefully taken from his former wife and married to a pagan. He struggles to maintain his faith, and he also loves his new wife, and they have young children who he devotes himself to instructing with his faith. His wife largely undermines and interferes with his efforts with the children.

    Pete, Martin and Justin have all committed grave sin:
    Peter can sincerely repent, return to the sacraments and carry on.
    Martin would love to return to the sacraments but he cannot do so without ending his second marriage, or by some other accepted penance/satisfaction.
    Justin would love to return to the sacraments but he cannot do so without ending his second marriage or denying the sexual rights of his second wife.

    “The customary perspective in theology starts from above. We know a doctrine or a rule, and we start from there in order to apply it to concrete reality, which is usually complex and manifold. Mercy leads us to a different perspective, to start not from above but from below, to undertake a consideration of a concrete situation to which we are applying the law or rule. This is not situation ethics, because the rule is valuable in itself and is not constituted by the situation. This is the method taught by St. Ignatius Loyola in his spiritual exercises; this is how Pope Francis, as a good Jesuit, practices it. He starts from the situation and then undertakes a discernment of the spirits.”

  36. Peter Foster says:

    The Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, Tablet (page 4) 13 September, seems to me to be asking the right questions by returning to the Gospel account of Jesus and his humanity.

    As the Japanese Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao perceived, we are burdened by an over intellectualised theology. Its roots are in the great minds of the Middle Ages, but it has undergone a legalistic fermentation through which vast authoritarian logical structures have been unjustly erected on simple Gospel phrases (whatever you shall bind on earth etcetera) in un-Christ-like ways.

    The ancient world was fearful. What we recognise as the operations of the natural world might seem to them as the operation of a spirit world; and death, disease, storms, drought and famine etcetera were in the forefront of their minds. To them truth was what was written in the Bible and other great books. It was not clear how to cope with contradiction: the works of Galen were taught alongside contradicting dissections. The relationship between theory and practice was confused: could a contradictory material fact have sufficient weight to disqualify a theory.

    This is our inheritance into which science has thrust many sword blades. Many of Quentin’s topics could be solved with a more relaxed humanity aware of the complexity of the human condition. However, the now accepted fact that homosexuality is not a choice but an aspect of human nature devastates the various God designed the world in this or that way theories, and the Humanae Vitae thesis. How to find Christ driven answers to the questions posed should be our key project.

  37. John Nolan says:

    Regarding Ignatius’s earlier comment, lay baptism should only be performed if the infant is in imminent danger of death. If it survives, it is then baptized in the normal way.

    Paul Milligan makes a good point about ‘rigorism’. No-one loves a puritan and Irish Catholicism had a rather joyless aspect to it, which is one of the reasons why so many have effectively abandoned it. Non-Catholics (and lapsed Catholics) see the Church as imposing a lot of rules which they see as negative. In fact the Church has never made onerous demands on the faithful, and being a Catholic should be a joyous experience that we are keen to share with others. High Mass in a German cathedral (with superb music) followed by a leisurely lunch in a Biergarten is the best thing this side of heaven. Hilaire Belloc equated Catholicism with ‘laughter and good red wine’. He wasn’t wrong.

    • milliganp says:

      My mother, God rest her soul, told me of her childhood in the West of Ireland where High Mass or Benediction, with flowers and candles on the altar, the smell of incense, the drama of the rite and the colour of vestments really prjectd a sense of the glory of heaven into the fairly grim and simple daliy lives of the people.
      However these were the same people who, if a young girl got pregnant would consign her to the permanent hell of a workhouse run by nuns.

      • tim says:

        First – forgive them – they didn’t know what they were doing. Second – I’m not willing to believe that all such homes for unmarried mothers were as awful as depicted in the Magdalene Sisters. With hindsight, it is easy to criticise – but the West of Ireland was poor in those days (I was there – children typically went barefoot) – and if the nuns had done nothing, a number of these girls would have ended up on the streets. Would that have been better?

      • Horace says:

        I agree with tim.
        The statement by milliganp “However these were the same people who, if a young girl got pregnant would consign her to the permanent hell of a workhouse run by nuns.” is only partially true.
        Life was tougher in those days – not only in the West of Ireland but in the slums of Dublin and Cork. It was typical for children to go barefoot (as a final year medical student I was delivering babies in these areas at that time).
        I knew women who had been in the “workhouse run by nuns” and were grateful rather than resentful – furthermore sex outside marriage was unequivocally considered disgusting and unmentionable by all classes of society at that time (university students included).

      • milliganp says:

        As ever, generalisations are always dangerous, however I’d like to add a few points. Many of the girls “condemned” for sex outside marriage were victims of fathers, uncles and brothers and many, because “they didn’t need to know” were ignorant of what was happening to them.
        The fact the girls ended up in homes was down to the narrow mindedness of the society in which they lived, the sense of shame in the family. These were the same people who went to mass and devotions but did not seem to understand forgiveness, charity and compassion – even in their own families.

        I am well aware of the poverty in Ireland but charity and compassion do not have a price.

  38. jimbeam says:

    Claret: when you talk about “the Church deciding what is mortal sin”, and, “what is the point of scripture if we are simply to ignore it or just ‘cherry pick’ as we go along?” — Christians who are not Roman Catholic may have a different understanding of the Church, and of sin, amongst other things. Of course many Roman Catholic’s would affirm with rigid conviction and zeal that the only solution here is that all other ‘Christians’ accept Papal supremacy&infallibility, and convert to Catholicism, since they are heretics in the first place. And it seems nearly all other Roman Catholics affirm this in part — either directly or indirectly — by default (it is still largely written in doctrine, such is the rigidity of the RCC), even if they do strive to direct themselves contrary to this projection (ie. Pope Francis). Protestants and Catholics are both guilty of ‘cherry picking’, in very different ways. As things stand we still have popular hatred and vehement accusations of heresy on both sides.
    This situation is not good, to say the least.

    • milliganp says:

      Contrary to Claret’s classic Catholic certainty, the Church defines what is grave matter and what is necessary for a sin to be mortal. No-one can say that another person is in a state of Mortal sin as this is an interior situation only God and the individual can determine. Thus many of those in irregular unions are not in a state of mortal sin because they have not made a definitive choice to reject God. However the church does have the right to apply sacramental discipline to those openly living at odds with the faith of the community.
      On a final point any form of certainty demands rigidity. The universe is constructed in the laws of physics – we can’t suddenly say “I’d like my light to go slower than everybody elses”, and we can’t ask for moral truths given us by God to be variable either. It is interesting that Bible fundamentalists also tend to reject science but will happily alow science to treat their aliments and operate theit televisions.

  39. jimbeam says:

    Despite his good intentions — and sincere heart I suspect — Pope Francis’ support of the Charismatic movement and his communion with protestants and other Christians outside of the RCC could actually be a superficial/false — or at least premature — peace.
    He is undermining his own authority as Pope, and with that the doctrine of the RCC.
    If he can he should use his authority to work for Christ’s peace, and amend any doctrine which is an obstacle to Christ’s peace.

    • milliganp says:

      Jimbeam, did I miss the bit where the Charismatic movement was declared to not be Catholic?

      • jimbeam says:

        I understand the crisis in the RCC was such that the instruments of grace which she herself taught and administered were not sufficiently administering grace. (And in reference to this situation, also note the prophesies — about which I have only read a little — of Garabandal)
        “Things began to change between 1962 and 1965, when Pope John XXIII opened up the Second Vatican Council by invoking the Holy Spirit and asking God for a “new Pentecost.” He asked that God would: “Renew Your wonders in our time….” God answered, and in 1967 a small group of faithful Catholics met in Pittsburgh, Pa., and called upon their Pentecostal friends to lay hands on them so they (as Roman Catholics) may receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II watched as this small group grew into a “movement” and expanded across the Atlantic and into many other countries. In 46 years, this group of Catholics has grown to over 180 million spirit-filled, born-again, faithful Catholic Christians. Pope Benedict XVI followed in Pope John Paul’s footsteps and publicly supported and encouraged those involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.”
        text taken from the PDF found on page:
        Pentecostals (according to this article: ), believe water baptism is merely a symbolic representation of the salvation which is received by the Holy Spirit and belief alone.
        Ephesians 4 talks specifically about “one baptism” — however I wonder since we talk about one God as 3 persons, perhaps this division is comparable?

      • milliganp says:

        Jimbeam, you’re quoting a Pentecostal interpretation of what is happening in the Catholic Church. None of the people I know who attend charismatic renewal services see themselves as “born again” in any way related to the use of the term in Pentecostal churches. I’m personally somewhat dubious of some of the behaviour since it seems to lack obvious fruits ( I find it difficult to believe that God gabbles endlessly in words no-one understands).
        I also find it confusing that you seem to switch from talking about the Catholic Church as an outsider (no Catholic I know calls the church RCC) to making definitive statements “as a Catholic”; I’m not saying this to argue or criticise, I just am finding it confusing.

      • John Nolan says:

        Charismatics are misguided at best and nutcases at worst. I have occasionally encountered them from the 1970s onwards and have always found them borderline heretics.

      • jimbeam says:

        milliganp, regardless of how Charismatics see themselves now, my point is fairly clear, that Catholics depended upon a one time ‘baptism’ (or was it rather laying on of hands aka ‘confirmation’?) from those who were not Catholic — and who’s doctrine does not conform to Catholic doctrine — because they did not (ie. due to the proliferation of sin and its effect on both doctrine and living translation/actualisation of doctrine) have sufficient faith in their own sacraments.

      • milliganp says:

        Jimbeam, you seem to merely restate your original claim without further argument. On another point, onthe alleged apparitions of Garabandal, the church has declared “that the supernatural character of the said apparitions, that took place around that time, could not be confirmed. [no constaba].” and thus have no standing for Catholics.

      • milliganp says:

        John Nolan
        “Charismatics are misguided at best and nutcases at worst. I have occasionally encountered them from the 1970s onwards and have always found them borderline heretics.”
        Collective condemnations are never a good idea. I’m not the greatest fan of the charismatic renewal, my standard riposte against them relates to my mother-in-law who used to speak in tongues. I would quip “on the basis she never said a charitable Christian word in English, the idea of her being charitable in tongues stretches the imagination”.
        However the gifts of the spirit are supposed to be for the church, not the individual. Blanket condemnations are always a problem, most of the people I know who follow the EF are misguided at best and heretics at worst.

  40. jimbeam says:

    On the subject of Luther and peace between Catholics and Protestants, these snippets are from an excellent speech I found by Pope Benedict:
    “God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularisation and become modern by watering down the faith?” …
    Progress in Christian unity was not like negotiating a treaty, he said. Ecumenism will advance when Christians enter more deeply into their shared faith and profess it more openly in society, he said. …
    …he focused on the common need to witness the Christian faith in a broken world.
    The key issue today was the issue of God, just as in Luther’s time, he said. But while Luther struggled with how to receive God’s grace, that question appears less crucial to modern society, he said.
    “For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians?” he said.
    Most Christians today presume that God will mercifully overlook their small failings, the Pope said.
    “But are they really so small, our failings?…” …
    …The Pope said this common witness of the Gospel had been made more difficult by the rise of fundamentalist
    [JimBeam: I think this means to say Pentecostal(?)] Christian groups that were spreading with “overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways”, leaving mainstream Christian denominations at a loss.
    “This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us – for better and for worse?”


  41. Vincent says:

    There are two connected matters which face the Synod — the results of which I will read with interest. The first concerns the pastoral need to explain the natural law .in terms which ordinary folk can understand. The second is the need to face up to the inability of so many to understand why artificial contraception is always wrong, irrespective of circumstances. Perhaps the first will enable everyone to accept the second. Or perhaps we will be left with the same position — where many people are unable to understand, let alone accept, a teaching which is apparently clearly obvious to authority. In which case, the disaffection, of which this issue is an important cause, will continue indefinitely.

    • milliganp says:

      Vincent, there are hundreds, if not thousands of theologians, philosophers and doctors who, in good faith, do not come to the same conclusion.
      In addition there are many other errors against natural law which do not get expressed in the absolute terms used with regard to sexual morality; for instance it is contrary to natural law to smoke or to get drunk, yet we had a pope who smoked and half our priests would end up excommunicated if the second example applied.

      • tim says:

        Why is it contrary to natural law to smoke? Or get drunk for that matter (how drunk? I remember a Toledo tea-towel printed with the seven stages of drunkenness, of which (I think) the second was ‘singing regional songs’ and the third ‘slanging the clergy’).

      • milliganp says:

        Aquinas argued that drunkenness is always a mortal sin as it causes loss of reason. It would be another 300 (ish) years before the arrival of tobacco but, if you follow natural law arguments, we are given lungs to breathe clean fresh air and not to pollute our bodies to the point where 6 Million people a year die of the effects. Smoking has no known positive benefits to justify low level use.

  42. Brendan says:

    There seems little doubt to me that the breakdown of family life in the West ,the lack of subjective Christian Faith among the populace, is a major reason for this crisis in the traditional family. As Quentin says , …. ” a re-emphasis on the sovereignty of conscience , both its extent and its limits. It is perhaps about time for Vatican 2 teaching to be a reality [ again ] in pastoral practice and in general Catholic understanding. ”
    When I was a child – pre-Vatican 2 , I imbibed . .” the wondrous harmony of the Catholic Faith “( Saint Pope John Paul 2 on the Catechism ) .. without even realising it. Life was simpler and seemed full of certainties – not just long hot summers !
    Now that I a man – I find society has plunged itself through lack of subjective ‘ faith ‘ into a crisis of conscience by the dull hand of relativism fuelled by materialism aimed at the consumer society.
    The Synod must take on board the full reality of our lives today and explain in terms we can all take on board that God given understanding in Catholic belief where conscience and authority meet. Like our lives in faith, it is almost undetectable but forms part, as Emeritus Pope Benedict says.. ” the harmonious symphony of the Catholic Faith “.
    From the Catechism of the Catholic Faith, I leave the last words to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman:
    ” Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [ Christians ] would not grant that it is nothing more ; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and promise … [ Conscience ] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ. ” CCC 1778 – Letter to the Duke of Norfolk

  43. jimbeam says:

    Milliganp, I got confirmed in the RCC (this was not something I wanted to do, yet I thank God for leading me thus); you could say I am a confused Catholic, or perhaps a protestant Catholic, if you like. Or a catholic Catholic?

    I think all this computer-internet communication is sapping my energy; however useful a tool it is, I think it is difficult (with regular use) not to be subtly wheeled into commiting adultery with what is one of mans favourite idols!

    Milliganp Re. “On a final point any form of certainty demands rigidity”, and about delineating the Church: “Logic says we can’t have it both ways!” :—

    Surely logic says that form without certainty does not demand rigidity (actually I’m confused about this)?
    I suggest Papal (or is it more appropriately said: the Bishop of Rome’s?) supremacy might (on the condition of Christian agreement?) have a certain validity (“all authority comes from God”, and is to be submitted to), and also a certain usefulness/necessity (earthly Church structure and hierarchy).
    On the other hand, Papal “infallibility” is surely a perverse “fermentation” (Peter Foster’s wording) of the for-mentioned “all authority comes from God”: in other words the correct understanding is that God (and only God) is infallible, and he is always in control, living over, within and through all fallible things. And God is our Father, not the Pope (though I have no problem with his title as a form of endearment and respect).
    To clarify from scripture, James 3:1-2, my italics: “we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” So even the Apostles themselves were subject to fallibility, let alone an ill earthy Church body which is certainly not able to bridle its whole self?

  44. Ignatius says:

    Personally I don’t think there is much point in condemning the charismatic wing of the catholic church – at least that is until you have been along to say New Dawn at Walsingham or some such and sat down in earnest conversation with a few folk for awhile. You could call me charismatic if you liked as I began christian life in the charismatic church. Sorry to say I also still pray in tongues from time to time…but I am a catholic. Te point about catholics not describing themselves as ‘born again’ is a very good one…I think it would be pretty hard to be a ‘born again catholic’….virtually impossible actually.

  45. jimbeam says:

    Ignatius: “Sorry to say I also still pray in tongues”. Why you sorry? I would like if I can myself.

    God wants all of us to “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit”, on the condition of love.
    Apparently tongues have a relevance especially for private prayer, and to a lesser extent also for prayer in fellowship (1 Corinthians 14):
    “Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.”
    (Later in this chapter, 21-25, Paul makes a very strange point about tongues also symbolising God’s rejection of people who refuse to listen/obey him. This is apparently akin to God saying: “you wont listen to me? Ok, so I will speak to you in a foreign language.”)

    And of course, if we:
    speak in the tongues of men or of angels… have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge… have faith to move mountains… etc.: — but have not love — we have nothing.

  46. Ignatius says:

    “Sorry to say..”

    I was being a trifle ironic. Of course I am not ashamed of speaking, singing or praying in tongues
    but on the other hand I don’t make a fuss over it either. The Roman Catholic view I appreciate best seems to simply treat tongues as a form of devotional practice, which of course it is, like many of our devotional practices it raises eyebrows here and there. I think the charismatic renewal is very important but that does not mean to say I am fanatical in that direction. I go to charismatic meetings only yearly at most. But when I go oh what a refreshing thing …Comments such as
    this below are both unhelpful and lacking in charity:
    “..Charismatics are misguided at best and nutcases at worst. I have occasionally encountered them from the 1970s onwards and have always found them borderline heretics….”
    It does seem to me that if you got out the rack, the knuckle dusters and checked things out with them then probably 90% of the church is borderline heretic depending on who is pulling the levers or dealing out the blows.

    • RAHNER says:

      More like 99%.

      • jimbeam says:

        How about 99% borderline heretic, 60% heretic? (for the 40% I’m thinking mostly of the many poor/persecuted/uneducated Christians who’s hearts are in the right place and are borderline heretic only by virtue of ill conditioning).

  47. jimbeam says:

    milliganp: Jimbeam, you seem to merely restate your original claim without further argument. On another point, onthe alleged apparitions of Garabandal, the church has declared “that the supernatural character of the said apparitions, that took place around that time, could not be confirmed. [no constaba].” and thus have no standing for Catholics.

    This sounds like an ‘academically correct’ — or ‘Roman Catholically correct’ — response to both concerns.

    Regarding Garabandal, I am not so concerned about the supernatural apparitions, rather the prophesies (even if the girls imagined the apparition, that does not invalidate the prophesies).
    “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
    Typically people will either take something (ie. apparition of Mary) whole, or reject it entirely. From what little I have read, I am inclined to believe that these prophesies are not a matter of black or white. The suggestion of an intricate fabrication of black and white, with greys, is not easily considered.

  48. John Nolan says:

    P Milligan

    I’m not sure what you mean by people who ‘follow the EF’. It’s not something that has to be hunted, like the Snark. If by ‘follow’ you mean ‘understand’ then an understanding of liturgical forms and liturgical tradition is surely praiseworthy. I am conversant with both the classic Roman Rite and the Novus Ordo, and attend both. Those who only attend the former can be somewhat rigid, but apart from a tiny lunatic fringe (non-existent in England) they are not heretical, quite the opposite in fact.

    • milliganp says:

      John, thank you for responding and recognising the problem with generalisations. However many of those I know who are attached to the EF are critical of the Novus Ordo to the point of doubting its validity.
      The parish of St Bede’s, Clapham Park is the parish of my childhood and I have many friends there. It is now the only parish in South London with a regular Sunday EF Mass (the events at Blackfen- the sudden termination of a settled EF community – worry me).
      However to recall an event at St Bede’s; on the centenary of the Consecration of the church the Archbishop presided at the celebratory Mass. At communion time a ciboria of EF hosts was taken from the Tabernacle and those members of the EF community who doubt the ability of even a Metropolitan Archbishop to confect the Eucharist using the Novus Ordo were communicated on a side altar. Indeed the presence in any Tabernacle of separate EF and NO Holy Communion points to a dangerous, almost schismatic, division.
      There are many parishes where a priest offers Mass in the EF on a weekday or on one Sunday a month and those who wish to do so have access to both forms. In those parishes that have regular Sunday Mass in the EF you inevitably end up with a separate community of “EF only” Catholics.

    • jimbeam says:

      Am I correct in thinking that the distinguishing characteristics of the EF is that the priest alone drinks the consecrated wine and that host is always received (kneeling) on the tongue?

      • milliganp says:

        These are the distinguishing features relating to reception of Holy Communion. The Mass is also always said in Latin (normally according to the 1962 missal), ad-orientem (facing the altar in post-Vatican II speak, facing God in EF speak), wearing distinctive vestments and with considerably greater ritual (at least in the solemn form).

      • jimbeam says:

        Thanks milliganp. I am wondering what you are ordained as?

  49. jimbeam says:

    Brendan, re. Newman’s “Conscience is a law of the mind”, I think this needs some consideration.
    My own experience relates to food. Scripture explains in some detail the politics of how, for instance, eating a black sausage is good for one man and sin to another.

  50. John Nolan says:

    Paul, that’s interesting about Clapham Park, but is it verifiable or just a rumour? Were the ciboria labelled OF and EF? Were people told in advance to go to a side altar to receive the ‘real thing’? I know that when St Paul’s Cathedral appointed its first female canon it was conceded that anything she ‘consecrated’ was to be reserved separately, as some of the other clergy regarded it as invalid.

    Even before the Council there were those who preferred Low Mass to Sung Mass and vice-versa, and now that we have in effect two distinct Rites and several distinct language groups, the OF is arguably more prone to spawning ‘communities’ than is the EF, which by its very nature is more inclusive. I notice that St Bede’s has a Mass in Spanish for the ‘Latin American community’. Added to this is the wide variation in the way in which the Novus Ordo is celebrated, which creates further division.

    • milliganp says:

      With respect, the OF doesn’t “spawn communities”, you’re stuck with the personal rite of you’re particular PP; people with particular views then vote with their feet. However, as someone who served at and attended the EF when it was the OF, there were still variations -but far less so. We also now have the Ordinariate with effectively two rites. It’s a long way from “one mass throughout the world”.

  51. jimbeam says:

    This morning at mass a fellow parishioner kneeled (as he alone always does) in front of our priest at the end of the isle to receive the host on the tongue. He then shuffled on his knees (I dont think I’ve seen this before) the 2 or 3 meters over to the extraordinary minister of the precious blood. I didn’t see if he took the chalice “in the hand”, or was obliged by the minister.

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